Thursday, November 26, 2009

Getting Stuffed, Giving Thanks

A quick note on this very fine Turkey Day.

In the spirit of bloated bellies, I published a photo essay on Matador Nights about a recent trip to a "meat market" in Montevideo, Uruguay. It is what it sounds like. Check it: A Case of the Meat Sweats in Montevideo.

I'm in Mendoza today. Therefore, I am thankful for good wine. Not just the diverse tastes, toned-down labels, and sleek green bottles, but for the creativity and dedication that go into its production--and the production of all the things we make not because we have to but because we want to.

Last year, I wrote about my thankfulness for travel. Obviously, I'm still feeling strong on that. But right now I'm also thankful that I'll be flying home in 20 days, back to drip coffee, unnecessarily creative vegan food, and a loving crew.

And hopefully to make a home--the other half of travel.

Peace and thanks out to you all.

Friday, November 20, 2009

I Don't Know What I'm Doing

I move out of my Buenos Aires apartment in less than 3 days. Nothing's packed. I'm not even sure if everything will fit in my luggage, despite the new duffel I bought from the arcade on Avenida Santa Fe.

Should I be worried? I don't know.

I've done this so many times it shouldn't require thought. Planning, packing, leaving. I mean, take your pick:

Confessions of a Serial Packer
The Old One-Two
The Cycle
No Regrets
Farewell, Portland
Farewell, Cocha
Another Farewell: Cuzco

You'd think I'd have it figured out.

But I don't. I don't know where all my stuff is. I don't even know what stuff I have. In my mind, there are tiny, dusty possessions hiding in corners, under the couch, in the back of the cabinet that reeks of mothballs. I'll never find them all. Something will be forgotten, left here in this septuagenarian-painted 10th-floor one-bedroom, stuck in some mildewed crack, becoming mildew, until they tear the whole building down and cart away the rubble.

And I'll be somewhere else, a different person living a different life, and I won't even know it's gone.

Monday, November 9, 2009

6 Images of an Urban Escape

In the late nineteenth century, the marshland sitting between the wide, muddy Río de la Plata and downtown Buenos Aires was commandeered and transformed into the city's new port. However, within a few decades cargo capacity had already been exceeded; another port was constructed to the north and the old one abandoned.

Just a decade or so ago, the inland portion of the old port was transformed again, this time into what might be Buenos Aires' swankiest barrio, Puerto Madero. Luxury apartments in renovated brick warehouse buildings line the stone walkways that parallel the old diques, where sailboats and yachts have replaced the freighters. Old cargo cranes have been preserved as monumental steel statues to the past.

But just east of here, where the land is too soft to support 50-story condominium towers, something different has been allowed to grow. The 360-hectare Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur is an unexpected expanse of green set adjacent to the ultra-modern Puerto Madero. Here and there where the grass isn't as thick, you can still see the ruts and concrete of old cargo offloading platforms, but for the most part nature has reclaimed it all.

More than 200 bird species are said to refuge in the reserve, but what's easier to see is the escape from the urban that it affords porteños. Pockets of land next to the river have been manicured with mowed grass and picnic tables for weekend asados, and couples blanket in the shade of short trees, looking out over the orange tinge of the river to the flocks of sailboats regatta-ing.

Cycling would seem to be the preferred way of getting around, though there are plenty of walkers. Loop trails range from 3.3 to 7.6km, and bikes can be rented outside both of the main entrances.

I've been impressed with the amount of green space in Buenos Aires, but the reserve is something different. Looking over the low sea of reedy marsh and scrawny trees to the line of half-finished skyscrapers and construction cranes, you can imagine inhabiting your own post-apocalyptic zombie horror flick. Only the zombies are all around you, grilling meat, pedaling bikes, and kicking soccer balls.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Cada Día

Every morning my little white pocket alarm clock wakes me up. Not the trains. Their crash has long since flattened into the soundtrack of life on the 10th floor of Palermo Soho. I hit the snooze seven times.

Every day I give the doorman a "buen día" without really looking at him, and he unbuzzes the lock just as my hand touches the door handle to pull it open and push out into the heavy balm of Fray Justo Santamaría de Oro, entre Güemes y Charcas. Sometimes it's raining.

Every day I wash the dishes after Carey makes sushi or vietnamese spring rolls or chili or pad thai or steamed vegetables or chilaquiles or tofu scram and we eat it. Twice a day usually, lunch and dinner. And coffee in the morning in the french press.

Every night I drink Malbec from the bottle. I just found a good one for 5 pesos.

Every Sunday, la familia two buildings over throws a picnic on the roof. Long tables covered with bowls and platters, probably lots of meat, pasta, papas. They play the radio, the kids kick the soccer ball. They don't seem to mind the rain.